Living in a Field of Hats

some ramblings and reflections on working with students in Herts and Beds.

What is a real church? March 8, 2009

Filed under: Christian Life,Church — Sarah @ 6:02 pm
Tags: , , ,

cartoon-churchI’ve been thinking a lot recently what exactly is a church. I mean, obviously it isn’t the building and I do find it good to think of a church as just a rain shelter as my old vicar said once. And, a church is a group of people, who are all centred around Jesus Christ. But, it isn’t that simple sadly. We do add our own criteria to what a church should be as well.

Went back to my old church on Christmas Eve (the one which I went to when I was a child) and realised that in my mind I had completly written it off as a place where Christians gathered and instead had it pegged as somewhere where there was a lot of people who had done things that had hurt me when I was a teenager and that didn’t preach the gospel. Now, it is true that there are a lot of people in that church who had hurt me when I was younger but that was 9 years ago now, how should I now view them – now that I am a Christian which I wasn’t then!

I wrote them off very quickly in my head as a church that doesn’t preach the Bible, full of people who aren’t really Christians. This may be true but should I have done that? No! Although I was proved right by the Christmas Eve Christingle service having absolutley no gospel input I had already judged them before I arrived and were almost waiting for them to fall. There’s background and there’s reasons but that’s not the point.

Got round to thinking about the way in which we do judge other churches and other Christians (by we I’m meaning conservative evangelicals). It’s so easy to judge people on the ways in which they do things such as which version of the bible they use, which songs they sing, who their congregation includes and say that they aren’t a real church because of x, y and z. Basically that they don’t do things exactly the same way that we do.

How does this appear to outsiders? When we have very definite, judgemental ideas about how a church should be and therefore judge other churches how does it look to non Christian? Like there’s actually lots of different forms of Christianity who are all claiming to be the right, and only true believers of the gospel. Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t Christian denominations who do things that I think are totally wrong and not from the Bible but surely the main definition of a group of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ is the most important thing to look for before judging them as an unbiblical church?

As part of my masters, we have lots of discussions in the lectures about things such as baptism, salvation and so on. There’s a huge wealth of opinion in the room as there is Anglicans, Romanian Orthodox, Catholics, Salvation Army to name but four (I’m sure I’ve missed some one off!) and there’s no way that we agree in anyway shape or form on most of these issues. Interestingly a Buddhist/Hindu has joined our course recently and it was one of her comments last week that got me thinking about this again. For our assignment we have to write from our own tradition (denomination) point of view, and the Buddhist is meant to try and do it from a Christian point of view (as it is a Christian masters) and she said

“How am I meant to do it from a Christian point of view when you all disagree with one another and don’t agree on anything!”.

It’s a good point! What are we showing people about our attitudes to church when we all disagree? How can people see the beauty of the church when all they see is inter fighting between denominations. Surely we should be aiming to seek fellowship with other church traditions as much as possible, rather than looking for reasons why they aren’t bible teaching in the ‘right’ way, or worshipping in the ‘right’ way or even praying in the ‘right’ way!! We should look for the good!


My typical week . . . . December 8, 2008

Filed under: Church,Random — Sarah @ 9:00 am
Tags: ,

This is what Jon and I wrote for ‘Ferndale in Focus’ about our typical week. Now, not all of this has happened in just one week but all the events are completly true! Enjoy!

An Intern’s job description
For any of you who wonder what we do all week, or have heard we spend all our time on the internet, we thought we would give a guide to a typical week* in the life of an intern at Ferndale. This has been made anonymous, but mainly so you can try and guess who is who!

Morning: Get to church and get out the orders of service – which contain at least one (deliberate) mistake – to be given out. The minister’s wife and son arrive at 10.20 and begin to rehearse the songs for the morning. Intern 1 gets asked at 10.25 to photocopy materials for Sunday school. Intern 1 returns with the photocopies and then is immediately asked to go back and photocopy a large-print version of the order of service. The service begins eventually. Deacon 1 gets up to do the children’s talk and keeps everyone’s attention by waving his arms around like a whirling dervish. Contrary to what is on the rota, intern 1 gives the reading and intern 2 leads the prayers. When it comes to the time when the children go out, one of the children has fallen asleep on the lap of intern 2 and they have to carry them out, by which time they have perked up and proceed to run around. The service ends and everyone comes out for teas and coffees. Chatting continues for several hours and the children take it in turns to harass the 2 interns about getting the pool cues out.

Lunch: Round to the house of the minister’s mother-in-law for a lovely meal. We sit down to lunch and the minister asks whether there was any Swede. The minister’s mother-in-law rushes back to the microwave to recover the vegetables. Pudding is ice cream and intern 2 finds a piece glass. The minister’s mother-in-law looks horrified and writes a letter to the offending supermarket.

Afternoon: Watch several episodes of a programme which involves a group of strangers cooking for each other. Having nearly fallen asleep on the sofa, it is time to go out…

Evening: Arrive late to bible study, but are awoken by the rousing singing from the Ferndale Song Supplement. The minister takes the study, a lively discussion follows. More chatting follows, eventually leave around 8.30

And there was evening and there was morning – the first day.

Morning: Get up early at 8.50am and stroll round to church for prayers at 9 only to find the minister off somewhere and intern 1 isn’t in either so end up praying alone. Deacon 1 comes in (as indicated by the sound of a minibus pulling up outside) and asks “did I hear the kettle?” Make deacon 1 a black coffee. Shortly after intern 2 goes off to meet a bishop from some denomination or other at a varied location whilst intern 1 and the minister go round to an elderly lady’s house and begin moving furniture. Intern 2 arrives back just as the minister suggests we need an energy boost so…

Lunch: the team goes out to the White Horse and discuss deep theological issues *ahem*!

Afternoon: Back to the house with reinforcements (but minus the minister as he is making phone calls) to work out how to move a big sofa upstairs and a single bed downstairs. First though, everything else needs moving …… Minister eventually arrives, gets a shopping list and leaves again. Intern 1 is to be found lying on the sofa going through months of paper work and intern 2 is making the bed up! Intern 2 sent out for milk and bread, intern 1 is now playing on the recliner chair! Help the lady into bed to read and leave.

And there was evening and there was morning – the second day.

Morning: prayers with the whole team (!) and a staff meeting at 9.30 which eventually begins around 10.30 after minister answering the phone several times, including a wrong number 3 times(!) and visits from several members. Tidying of the downstairs office follows, throwing out various interesting trinkets. The sound of deacon 1 minibus pulling up is heard. He has a meeting with the local police officer and offers the services of intern 1 to make the tea.

Lunch: consists of cake and cup a soup on the go as intern 2 goes round to see how the elderly lady is getting on.

Afternoon: The minister is off on visits and there is some sense of peace as the interns get to spend some time in the office for the first time in the week. Intern 1 works on preparing a bible study but is soon distracted by making a flyer for an event and then talking in German to former intern’s wife. Intern 2 catches up with various other bits and pieces including ordering the paper on which this is printed. Office help comes into look through the church archives and finds various interesting stories relating to deacon 1. All the team come to hear them and have a chuckle.

And there was evening and there was morning – the third day.

Intern 2 doesn’t see intern 1 all days, who knows where they are but hears a rumours they’ve been banned from Southend library.

Lunch: Intern 2 goes to meeting with buffet provided at the Plaza Centre, which is delicious.

Afternoon: it is getting close to time to go home and intern 2 hasn’t seen deacon 1 all day. As intern 2 gets ready to go home deacon 1 arrives with plants that need putting in the church.

And there was evening and there was morning – The fourth day.

Morning: At prayers one of the members points out the many unpronounceable names in the bible reading. After prayers the minister and 2 interns go round to school for assembly. Minister does a demonstration using flags.

Lunch: The minister has a meeting with other church leaders. The interns take the orders for teas and coffees and make them. Have a few sandwiches left over from the meeting.

Afternoon: intern 2 is working on a project to which they were volunteered by deacon 1. Deacons 2 & 3 arrive to restock the paper towels, which have all mysteriously disappeared again. The minister has been at Asda and brings back various goodies to enjoy.

And there was evening and there was morning – the fifth day.

Morning: The minister’s wife and deacon 1 arrive to prayers 5 minutes late walking in at precisely the same moment. Mums and Tots is in full swing and the interns are getting plenty of cups of tea and biscuits. They also get their weekly food parcel from one of the members. The information for putting together the order of service for Sunday arrives nice and early at 11am. Intern 2 puts it together as intern 1 is still claiming they don’t know how to do it.

Lunch: Goodies from the food parcel

Afternoon: Café Gold goes ahead, more cups of tea and cakes. Deacon 1 arrives just in time for coffee and then informs the interns that he needs something doing for Sunday. A mad rush follows to finish it all before going home

And there was evening and there was morning – the sixth day

By the seventh day the interns had finished the work they had been doing; so on the seventh day they rested from all their work – unless there was a Sunday school meeting, or a Girls Brigade outing, in which case they did not.

*The week also includes making an average of 25 cups of tea for ourselves, plus quite a few for others and on average 3 visits every day from various people into the office.